Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Syria: Reports of helicopter shipments underscore need for arms embargo

Amnesty International

19 June 2012

"The increased use of helicopters by the Syrian army is putting civilians at even greater risk and further strengthens the case for an international arms embargo, Amnesty International said today amid reports that a Russian ship carrying strike helicopters to Syria had been stopped in the North Sea.

The UK Foreign Office said on Tuesday that it was “aware of a ship carrying a consignment of refurbished Russian-made attack helicopters heading to Syria”. The ship is now reported to be returning to Russia after its insurance was revoked.

"As confrontations between the Syrian army and armed opposition groups have intensified in recent weeks, the Syrian army seems to be resorting ever more to the use of combat helicopters, which risks increasing civilian casualties,” said Donatella Rovera, Amnesty International’s Senior Crisis Adviser, who has just returned from spending several weeks in Syria, where she met victims of indiscriminate fire from helicopters in the north of the country.

“In this context, anyone supplying attack helicopters – or maintaining, repairing or upgrading them – for the Syrian government displays a wanton disregard for humanity.”......

In the course of its research work in Syria during April and May, Amnesty International has found that helicopters have regularly been used for cover and surveillance during ground operations.Helicopters have also been used to fire machine guns and reportedly rockets. As with other arms, Syrian forces have used helicopters recklessly, leading to civilian casualties.In many areas Amnesty International visited in May and June, residents described how the army swept into their town or village with dozens of tanks and armoured vehicles, in some cases backed up by combat helicopters, firing indiscriminately and targeting those trying to flee......."

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